A Good Old-fashioned Future
is a paperback collection of seven short stories by former cyberpunk guru turned sociocultural prognosticator Bruce Sterling. Most of the works here come with impressive pedigrees, ranging from a Hugo Award
for "Bicycle Repairman" to Hugo nominations for "Maneki Neko" and "Taklamakan." Another piece, "Big Jelly," was cowritten by Sterling's fellow cyberpunk alum, Rudy Rucker.
These stories have a lot in common. They all take place in the near future, and most are action-oriented, involving colorful characters such as secret agents, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Mafioso's, and revolutionaries. But they are also personal tales that tend to focus on individuals rather than ideas, which makes them hit home more often than standard SF fare. The best of the bunch is probably "Taklamakan," a high-concept piece about two freelance spies sent to a central Asian desert called Taklamakan, where the Asian Sphere is doing some sort of secret research into space flight. "Bicycle Repairman" is set in the same world, but instead of in an Asian desert it takes place in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the spies in this story aren't the good guys. It's a less successful piece than "Taklamakan" but also a good read.
Not all of the stories in this collection have the edgy, this-is-what-tomorrow-will-be-like quality that typifies Sterling's best work. But even when Sterling isn't at his best he's entertaining, and A Good Old-Fashioned Future is certainly that. --Craig E. Engler
"Science fiction that makes the rest of near-future SF look toylike by comparison. It's as if Sterling is the only writer paying attention to what's happening in the real world."